Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 September 2019

Pep Guardiola: retaining Premier League more important then winning Uefa Champions League

The Spaniard says he would be delighted if Manchester City repeat their domestic success in 2019/20 - even if it is at expense of European glory

Domestic success is the priority for Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Reuters
Domestic success is the priority for Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Reuters

Pep Guardiola is adamant he would happily forego the Uefa Champions League to repeat last season’s historic quadruple after declaring that winning the Premier League gives him more job satisfaction.

The Catalan’s Manchester City, who did a clean sweep of the domestic trophies, face European champions Liverpool at Wembley Stadium in Sunday's Community Shield.

Guardiola won the Champions League as a Barcelona player in 1992 and as manager in 2009 and 2011.

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But while another would draw him level with Bob Paisley, Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane on a record total for a manager, he insisted his priority lies in England. Winning in Europe, he believes, is rather more a question of luck.

"I would sign right now to do what we did last season again,” he insisted. “Not winning the Champions League and four titles again in this season.

"I think I want to be happy during 11 months. It makes me happy, the Premier League. When I win, the days after I am happier. I go to the restaurants better, I feel better, I work better with my players. That's what it gives me.

"Am I going to wait until February to play seven games with everything on the colour black? From my point of view, it's too risky. You have to handle it.

"To maintain the health of the team, the focus in the Premier League. The Premier League always is the most important thing, the local competition because it is every weekend.”

City’s Champions League exit last season was a tale of misfortune. They exited to Tottenham Hotspur on away goals after Sergio Aguero missed a penalty, Fernando Llorente scored what proved a decider at the Etihad Stadium in freakish fashion and Raheem Sterling had what appeared an injury-time winner overturned, courtesy of VAR.

“One inch offside, no inches offside, decisions, referees, arriving with a lot of injuries, the team is better than you,” Guardiola mused. “For one or two games many things can happen.

"Winning the Champions League is so difficult, so, so complicated.”

Guardiola is an admirer of Liverpool but the accolades were split last season after Jurgen Klopp’s team conquered Europe while City lifted the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and Community Shield.

“Winning the Champions League gets all the credit,” he noted. “But why is it higher than what we have done over 11 months? I'm pretty sure Liverpool would have liked to win the last Premier League [after] 30 years not winning.”

Guardiola believes City’s lack of continental silverware has cost their players individual prizes, arguing their efforts in other competitions are wrongly overlooked.

“Maybe because, for this award, it is seven games: eighth-finals, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final,” he argued. “When you win the Champions League, you will be there.

"In the other 10 or 11 months they don't care for these kind of awards. It is a little bit unfair but it is what it is.”

Now Guardiola feels that Bernardo Silva, a Uefa Nations League champion, is an outstanding candidate for the Ballon d’Or. “Maybe you have to win five titles or maybe Bernardo six,” he said.

“I don’t think one player made a better season than Bernardo Silva last season, even winning with Portugal.”

Sunday’s meeting with Liverpool pits City against a team with no domestic league titles in 29 but back-to-back PFA Player of the Year awards, given to Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk.

In contrast, no City player has ever topped the professionals’ ballot.

“In eight years we won four Premier Leagues, and never won: not Sergio [Aguero], not David [Silva], not Vincent [Kompany], not the players in the past,” Guardiola noted.

“So the season we won 100 points, huge respect for Mohamed Salah but Kevin de Bruyne was above and beyond the normal situations.”

If Guardiola has made winning the Premier League feel normal, he thinks it merits more recognition.

Updated: August 4, 2019 08:43 AM

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